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Lisa Owen interviews Labour’s Housing spokesman Phil Twyford

Lisa Owen interviews Labour’s Housing spokesman Phil Twyford

Headlines:

KiwiBuild’s total cost will be a $1.5 billion revolving fund that will be spent 25 times over during a 10-year period and will be cost neutral for government.

Says National’s answer to Auckland’s housing crisis is to build shoebox-sized apartments.

Labour will “fine tune immigration flow” but won’t say whether that means it will stop an estimated 29,000 immigrants from coming into the country

“I’m saying we are going to manage the immigration flow to ensure that we get skilled migrants and don’t put too much pressure on the housing crisis.”

_

Lisa Owen: You heard the minister’s quote there that it was unacceptable for houses to be up by 50-thousand, the median price in Auckland. Yet they went up more than that. But if you were minister, realistically, could you have stopped that?

Phil Twyford: Labour takes a very different approach to the current National Government. We have a bold and comprehensive set of measures that we believe will deal with the housing crisis. Look, the OECD says that we have some of the most overpriced housing in the world. The prime minister thinks we don’t have a housing crisis. But as your story has said house prices have been going up by more than a thousand dollars a week. Now Matt and Alyssa in your intro piece, they simply cannot - they will never be able to save the deposit because they can’t keep up with inflation.

But you realistically couldn’t have stopped that leap in prices though, as well?

Look, Labour would have intervened in what is a case of market failure in the housing sector - in the housing market. It is market failure. It requires the Government to intervene and that is what Labour will do.

So let’s look at that. The minister couldn’t tell me how many of the housing accord houses would be affordable or how much they might cost, because it’s a free market. You would tell us where the houses were being built, exactly how much they would cost under KiwiBuild and even who would be able to buy them. So isn’t that sort of sounding a bit like a Soviet housing project?

No. We will build 100-thousand high quality affordable starter homes, built by the country’s finest private sector builders and we will sell them to first home buyers. A hundred thousand affordable starter homes. This Government is only going to deliver 7 to 8-hundred so-called affordable homes over three years.

They say there’s going to be more after that though. I just want to ask you about your KiwiBuild. So have you priced that policy? How much is it going to cost us?

We are going to spend one and half billion dollars to create a revolving fund that will be spent 25 times over in the course of a 10 year period. And that’s how we will fund the construction of a 100-thousand affordable starter homes.

So is that the total cost of the project or just a starter?

Actually over the decade it’s cost neutral because it’s revolving fund. Every time we sell a new home to a couple of first home buyers like Matt and Alyssa in your story that money then gets recycled back into the fund and builds another home.

Ok, so you heard Bill English’s quote there when he said we need to get a little bit ugly, he’s basically saying that low income people are used to living in not so flash houses. So is he right? Is it time to get a bit ugly?

So National’s answer to the housing crisis in Auckland is to build the kind of shoebox apartments that were built on Hobson Street when John Banks was the mayor. That would be an utter disaster. Their idea is that poor people should live in shoebox apartments with smaller, lower ceiling sizes and narrower doors and that somehow that’s the answer to the housing crisis. They’ve got it all wrong. We have to – you know Labour’s done this before and we will do it again. We will intervene in the market to make the market delivers good quality houses for first home buyers.

You say they’ve got it all wrong but consents are at the highest they’ve been in the past 7 years. We are going to get 8-thousand houses by 2016. But that is just the beginning; the minister says that he’s going to open up more land part way through this year. This is just the beginning. They are turning it round.

They’ve been in government for 6 years. Twelve months ago they announced the housing accord and they promised Aucklanders 39-thousand homes. Eight months ago they signed the accord, they still haven’t built a single new house that anyone’s living in and they promising projections, they’re promising consents, they’re promising subdivisions. They are even counting the Manukau golf course, which as we speak, people are teeing off to play golf for the day. People cannot live in a consented subdivision or a press release. They need houses.

He’s saying, to be fair, that it’s not just 8-thousand homes, that 8- thousand by 2016, that there will be more coming on stream, they can’t all be built at the same time, but they will be there.

But Lisa, last year, the 12 months before the accord the market produced more than nine thousand consents on its own. The minister’s target for the first year of the accord is nine thousand. That’s hardly ambitious for New Zealand is it.

Ok you’re talking numbers there and projections. Labour has said that immigration is part of the problem, 5 to 15-thousand net immigration is the sweet spot we’ve heard. So that means you’re going to be stopping 29-thousand immigrants coming into the country on current projections. Are you really going to do that?

Look Nick Smith visited Auckland yesterday and I think he was probably the only person in Auckland who believes that 40-thousand new people in the city won’t drive house prices up.

No, are you going stop 29-thousand extra immigrants from coming into the country. Is that your plan?

What we has said is that we will fine tune the immigration flow so that we both get the benefits of skilled migrants but we don’t put too much pressure on our ability to provide housing.

If you are going to go down to 15-thousand, then you are stopping 29-thousand. So yes or no, is that the plan?

Look, if you have 40-thousand new people coming in that’s 10-thousand extra houses that are needed, on top of numbers the minister doesn’t have a hope of meeting already.

Ok, so that’s a yes is it? You’re going to 15-thousand, 29-thousand not coming in –

I’m saying we are going to manage the immigration flow to ensure that we get skilled migrants and don’t put too much pressure on the housing crisis.

ends

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